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Sinus Infections

What is Acute Sinusitis?

Sinuses are air-filled spaces in the skull behind the face. They are kept moist and clean by a lining of mucosa. Things such as pollen, smoke, and chemical fumes can irritate the mucosa. It can then become inflamed (swell up). As a response to irritation, the mucosa makes more mucus and other fluids. Tiny hair-like cilia cover the mucosa. Cilia help transport mucus toward the opening of the sinus. Too much mucus may cause the cilia to stop working. This blocks the sinus opening. A buildup of fluid in the sinuses then leads to symptoms such as pain and pressure. It can also encourage growth of bacteria in the sinuses.

What is Chronic Sinusitis?

Chronic sinusitis is a long-term swelling or infection of the sinuses. If sinusitis lasts more than 12 weeks, it is called chronic.

Common Symptoms:

Common symptoms of acute sinusitis:

  • Facial soreness pain

  • Headache

  • Fever

  • Postnasal drip (drainage in the back of the throat)

  • Congestion

  • Drainage that is thick and colored, instead of clear

  • Cough


Common symptoms of chronic sinusitis:

  • Facial pain and pressure

  • Headache and sinus pain

  • Nasal congestion

  • Thick, colored drainage from the nose

  • Postnasal drainage (thick mucus draining down the back of the throat)

  • Loss of smell

  • Fever

  • Cough

  • Sore throat


Caused By:

Mucus helps keep your sinuses clean. But mucus may build up in the sinuses due to colds, allergies, or obstructions. These things interfere with the natural drainage of mucus. This may lead to sinusitis (sinus inflammation and infection).

  • Acute sinusitis comes on suddenly. It often happens right after an upper respiratory infection, such as a cold.

  • Chronic sinusitis is ongoing swelling of the sinus lining. This is often the result of allergies or chronic infections.

Causes of chronic sinusitis
Problems that irritate the mucosa or block drainage can lead to chronic sinusitis. These may include:

  • Infections

  • Chronic allergies

  • Nasal polyps, deviated septum, or other obstructions

  • Constant exposure to irritants, such as cigarette smoke or fumes


Colds and other infections

A cold or flu may cause your sinus and nasal linings to swell. Sinus openings can become blocked. This causes mucus to back up. This backed-up mucus becomes an ideal place for bacteria to grow. Thick, yellow, or discolored mucus is one sign of infection.
Allergic reactions
You may be sensitive to certain substances. This causes the release of histamine in the body. Histamine makes your sinus and nasal linings swell. Long-term swelling clogs your sinuses. It prevents the cilia (tiny hairs in the nasal lining) from sweeping away mucus. Allergy symptoms can be persistent. But they’re less severe than with colds.


  • A polyp is a sac of swollen tissue. It can be the result of an allergy or infection. It may block the middle meatus (the opening where most of your sinuses drain). It may even grow large enough to block your nose.

  • A deviated septum is when the thin wall inside your nose is pushed to one side. It is often the result of injury. This can block your middle meatus.



Treatment of acute sinusitis
Treatment is designed to unblock the sinus opening and help the cilia work again. Antihistamine and decongestant medications may be prescribed. These can reduce inflammation and decrease fluid production. If a bacterial infection is present, it is treated with antibiotic medication for 10 to 14 days. This medication should be taken until it is gone, even if you feel better.
Treating chronic sinusitis
Treatment involves reducing irritation and inflammation. Your plan may include:

  • Taking medications. Medications may be prescribed reduce secretions and swelling. These help unblock the sinuses and allow them to drain. Antibiotics are prescribed for bacterial infections.

  • Sinus irrigation (flushing with saltwater or saline solution) may be suggested. This helps to clear out mucus.

  • A plan to control allergies is helpful if they are present. This plan may include medications or allergy shots.

  • Surgery, in some cases. Surgery on the nose, sinuses, or both can improve sinus drainage or remove nasal obstructions.

Providers Who Treat this Symptom: